01 Dec 2011
I had been planning on beginning the follow-up story to The Root of All Things this morning, but instead I stumbled across this article by Adam Gopnik while skimming through Reddit this morning. The essential point here seems to be that Young Adult fantasy aimed at boys (the article focuses on Paolini’s Eragon series) teaches them how to think, absorb, and interact with history. I personally have not read Paolini, but I think that I at least partially agree with Gopnik’s central thesis, despite his dismissive treatment of the genre.
What I did find interesting was the degree to which he missed the point in regards to Tolkien, taking from the stories a sense of detailed description and “[in comparison to T.H. White’s exploration of morals] . . . a Tolkienesque treatment, focussing on clashes between armies, not within souls.” Yes, there were an abundance of detail and armies in Tolkien’s work, but I don’t think that either of those things were the point.
The thing that struck me, reading Lord of the Rings, was that everything rested on the books’ everyman, Frodo. The best and brightest of men (Aragorn), Elves (Legolas), Dwarves (Gimli), and Wizards (Gandalf) simply couldn’t get the job done. In the end they were nothing more than a distraction, a sideshow. Sure, they were important, but it was the guy with no special abilities or powers who has to get the job done.
I’m going to cut myself off here, before I get too far into my rant about Tolkien and how his imitators seem to copy every part of his work but the part that matters. Don’t worry, though, I’ll try to give you the whole thing sometime this month.